Oct 5, 2012

What Exactly is Stewardship?

 One area of Christian theology which most believers need guidance is in the province of stewardship. Too often, when the church says “stewardship,” the Christian hears “$teward$hip.” For example, as I glance through catalogues from religious publishing houses, when I come to the pages concerning stewardship it amazes me how many of the books have to do with money alone. Some titles are instructive: More Money, Big Money, New Money; How to Develop a Tithing Church; Speaking of Stewardship: Model Sermons on Money and Possessions; and many more. Clearly, stewardship does concern what Christians do with their money, but stewardship is a much richer theological concept than we usually confer upon it. Stewardship is an abundant and vital Christian notion. We do the term an injustice when we equate it exclusively with money.

The word “stewardship” is a Greek word, from which we derive the English word for “economy.” Stewardship fundamentally means “to manage the household.” Unfortunately, the household we think of first when we hear the word stewardship is the household of money. In reality, however, anything Christians manage is a household. For example, we are Christian stewards over our influence, faith, vote, spiritual life, listening, cooking, love, encouragement, good will and so on. Indeed, anything we manage is a stewardship “household.” Clearly, our households includes our money, but stewardship is also much more than money.

Christian teachers and exemplars can help believers understand that stewardship is not just a “money word,” but is rather the deep reservoir from which people may draw to respond in faith. To help new givers learning about stewardship appreciate the term, I divide this theological concept into four cardinal principles. These four principles or standards are not exhaustive, but suggest ways we can visualize Christian stewardship fundamentals.

Here are my four principles of Christian stewardship:

  1. Everything belongs to God.
  2. God includes people as partners in creation.
  3. Each believer has a task that he or she is gifted to do.
  4. God’s realm will remain steadfast with or without our participation.
We could say that these principles not only guide individual Christians, but they might be used to further the church’s mission to God’s created world.

As you contemplate how you will respond to our 2013 campaign Do the Right Thing! Remember that our response to God includes much more than our money—and yet it does include that too!


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